When I was looking though my books from childhood, this image from the endpapers for The Golden Book of Children’s Literature, pulled me in again, just like it did when I was young. People who live to read (can you find them all?) is the world this book invites us into. And that got me thinking about the special place endpapers hold in books.
Endpapers are the opening and closing of a book. They can be as simple as a well-chosen tint of colored paper stock to set the mood, and palette of a story, or they can provide another surface for the illustrator to use in their storytelling. I like including illustrated endpapers in my books. In fact, when I was hoping to win my first picture book illustration contract, for BUZZ by Janet Wong, I included a description of the endpapers in my initial notes to the editor. She told me later that that helped convince her that I was the right artist for the job.
I took this approach for my own Best Best Friends, which takes place during business hours at a preschool. The cubbies are full when everyone arrives,
and empty (almost) after they leave.
Some illustrators use the endpapers to extend the story to it’s fullest possible extent. In David Small‘s illustrations for Sarah Stewart‘s The Friend, they function as prelude, setting up the scene of the lonely little girl in the big house,
and as epilogue.
The colored bands continue to the title page,
and carry through to the last page where we see that the turquoise line that reads as the ground throughout the book is actually toothpaste. Ha, fooled again!
And as if the rest of the book isn’t beautiful enough, Peter Sís‘s exquisite endpapers for The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin could function as separate, additional picture books in and of themselves. I mean really.
Unfortunately, endpapers are often left out of later editions of books if they go to paperback or board book formats. While these editions are more affordable than hard cover, it’s a shame that the endpapers are seen as expendable. It’s like getting a hamburger without the bun.
Nevertheless, when you set out to illustrate a picture book, keep the endpapers in mind as part of the whole package. Who knows, it might even get you a book contract some day.